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TheCelloPlayer

The birth of the selfie, why Japan bombed Pearl Harbor (part 1), and reader reactions: newsletter, October 2, 2020

This newsletter was sent to everyone on Jim’s email list (2,519) on Friday, October 2, 2020. Johann Sebastian Bach is on my list of “things to be thankful for” this week. In fact, he’s not far from the top. Bach lived from 1685 to 1750 and was a composer of baroque-era music. He was also deeply spiritual, […]

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JQAdams

Racism, the 19th century, and the prescience of John Quincy Adams

Despite the fact that one of America’s great accomplishments of the 19th century was the ultimate abolition of slavery, racial attitudes did not advance toward accepting racial equality at all. By the end of the century, the nation had wrapped itself into the knots of Jim Crow laws that embedded segregation into just about every […]

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Cat on watch

A top 19th century female scientist and writer remembered, the history of Aunt Jemima, and Richard Ben Cramer on Joe Biden: newsletter, August 28, 2020

This newsletter was sent to everyone on Jim’s email list (2,5xx) on Friday, August 28, 2020. Sometimes you win the lottery, and then sometimes you get really lucky. Our household is still in a joyous state over the birth of our grandson a couple of weeks ago. It’s a big win, as they say these days. Thanks, […]

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HighwayGas

The 19th amendment, James Lee Burke, John Quincy Adams, and NYT’s typos: newsletter, August 21, 2020

This newsletter was sent to everyone on Jim’s email list (2,5xx) on Friday, August 21, 2020.   Through muted celebrations, we noted the centennial of the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution this week. This amendment guaranteed the right of women to vote, and it represented the largest and most significant change […]

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Should ex-presidents continue in public service?

Should a person who has been president of the United States continue in government service after leaving the White House? Throughout American history, the answer has been “No.” An ex-president has no place in any branch of government. Outside public service? Maybe, just as what Jimmy Carter has been doing in the 40 years since […]

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Being tall at Guadalcanal, a notorious pirate, rural noir, and the serial killer: newsletter, August 14, 2020

This newsletter was sent to everyone on Jim’s email list (2,5xx) on Friday, August 14, 2020.   One of the things on my mind this week is the concept of respect. The thinking on that was kicked off by an NYT column by Bret Stephens on the 18th-century politician and philosopher Edmund Burke (Why Edmund Burke […]

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Girl on a park bench

The movie and book that define noir, online teaching and learning, the hard-boiled detective, and a podcast recommendation: newsletter, August 7, 2020

This newsletter was sent to everyone on Jim’s email list (2,5xx) on Friday, August 7, 2020.   Churches can’t meet, businesses can’t operate properly, schools and libraries can’t open — none of this can happen without major concerns about the safety of the people involved. This is a deeply frustrating time for all of us. […]

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The Guitar Player

The practicality of the first Black bookstore owner, the role of ex-presidents, and more about libraries and erasing history: newsletter, July 31, 2020

This newsletter was sent to everyone on Jim’s email list (2,550) on Friday, July 31, 2020.   As with much of the rest of the world, Americans continue to struggle with the COVID-19 pandemic. Should we send children to school? Can professional sports maintain a schedule? Is it safe to go to a restaurant or […]

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Arc de Tromple

Changing American attitudes toward slavery, police reporting reconsidered, and reader reactions: newsletter, July 17, 2020

This newsletter was sent to everyone on Jim’s email list (2,5xx) on Friday, July 17, 2020.   The world gets crazier and the pandemic, in America, gets worse. My heart is with those who have to make difficult decisions, from sending their kids to school to ordering businesses to shut down. I pray for their […]

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HouseinBrooklyn

Marguerite Higgins finds a place for a woman in a combat zone, Stevie Wonder, and what Lincoln looked like: newsletter, May 22, 2020

This newsletter was sent to everyone on Jim’s email list (2,5xx) on Friday, May 22, 2020. This summer is likely to turn into my Wolf Hall summer. I have waited too long to dive into Hilary Mantel’s widely-acclaimed trilogy of historical fiction about the life of Thomas Cromwell. Mantel published the third volume of the trilogy (The […]

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GeorgeSmith

George Smith and the Epic of Gilgamesh

Previously: — Writing: It started with the Sumerians  — The library of Ashurbanipal: its discovery changed our view of history — Henry Rawlinson on the Behistun inscription: key to the translations of Ashurbanipal’s library When George Smith stood up before London’s most important people at the British Museum in late 1872, he was within walking distance of […]

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YoungWinstonC

Winston Churchill as a celebrity journalist, Irish mystery writers, and George Smith and the Epic of Gilgamesh: newsletter, January 24, 2020

This newsletter was sent to everyone on Jim’s email list (2,6xx) on Friday, January 24, 2020.     Mid-January has brought us subfreezing temperatures and plenty of rain. The rain has kept us out of the garden plots, which need winter tilling, and the cold prevents wood-working because glue won’t adhere in the cold. All […]

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HenryRawlinson

Henry Rawlinson on the Behistun inscription: key to the translations of Ashurbanipal’s library

Previously: — Writing: It started with the Sumerians  — The library of Ashurbanipal: its discovery changed our view of history The discovery of Ashurbanipal’s Library and its treasure of ancient clay tablets that contained writing up to 3,000 years old stands as one of the great archeological finds of the modern era. The discovery came in […]

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HPLovecraft

The father of modern horror literature, grammar rules to live without, and a podcast recommendation: newsletter, January 17, 2020

This newsletter was sent to everyone on Jim’s email list (2,6xx) on Friday, January 17, 2020.   {% if subscriber.first_name != blank %} Hello {{ subscriber.first_name }}, {% else %} Hello, {% endif %} News from Major League Baseball in January is never plentiful, and what there was this week was not good: two team managers were fired […]

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AustenHenryLayard 1

Writing: It started with the Sumerians

The earliest writing that is anything close to what we do today comes from the Sumerians, the ancient civilization that occupied the Tigris and Euphrates valley (now Iraq and Iran) more than 3,000 years ago. Paper and ink, as we know it, were nonexistent then in that part of the world. Instead, the Sumerians made […]

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Lyndon Johnson

Gulf of Tonkin – the debate continues

My current involvement in our Vietnam Voices project (see last week’s newsletter) has provoked discussions among some of my good friends about the incident cited most often as the spark for the American escalation of forces in that country in 1964 and 1965 — the attack on U.S. naval vessels in the Gulf of Tonkin. […]

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Mr.Lindoln in sepia

The significance of Nov. 22, the politics of pronouns, and the impact of World War I: newsletter, Nov. 22, 2019

This newsletter was sent to everyone on Jim’s email list (2,663) on Friday, November 22, 2019.   Thanksgiving is upon us, and it is, for many reasons, my favorite holiday. Good food and a bit of idleness, along with some crisp fall weather, are on my agenda. Whatever is on yours, I hope that it […]

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World War I and the great changes it wrought

I am a great advocate of the Great War, more often called World War I. It’s not that I think that it should have happened, of course, but I think the all-inclusiveness and horror of World War II often overshadow it, and its influence on our politics and our society is frequently forgotten. People who […]

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JFKWHP-ST-C420-51-63

November 22 will always be a date set apart

The special significance of November 22 remains hard to match for Americans who are slightly younger and my age or older. Many believe that September 11, 2001, is the equivalent for today’s young adults, but I have my doubts. The triple blows of Sept. 11 coming from a foreign source were horrible. But the shock […]

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Breen’s research on the truly Revolutionary War

Just how revolutionary was the American Revolutionary War? Pretty revolutionary, according to historian T. H. Breen, who has written a recently-published book examining the thinking that went on behind the American colonies’ break with the mother country. What we call the American Revolution cannot be linked to a single moment such as the signing of […]

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